Ichiro Suzuki says he uses March to ease himself into the regular season’s six-month grind.
“Not just spring training, but in the season, too, it’s good to learn to pace yourself,” Suzuki said through his interpreter Saturday.
His pace has been slow, all right. Seattle’s perennial All-Star asked for an extra at-bat late in the Mariners’ 5-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics Saturday at Peoria, but went hitless again with a sharp lineout, leaving him 0-for-14 this spring.
“I told him to bunt. I was just making light of it,” Mariners manager John McLaren said.
Yet the pack of Japanese media who follow Suzuki’s every breath are starting to get breathless over this spring slump. It has them remembering a career-worst, 0-for-24 slump in the 2005 regular season for the man with the most hits in the major leagues since 2001 (1,592).
McLaren has a message for all: Exhale.
“How many batting titles has he won? Five? I think it’s funny,” he said, exaggerating by three Suzuki’s total in the major leagues.
Suzuki, who had seven batting titles in Japan, also thinks the skid means as much as wins in March.
But he says he is starting to get sympathy.
“Even if it’s an exhibition game, I’m getting kind of an ‘I’m-sorry’ feeling from others,” he said.